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Sri Aurobindo's philosophy, spirituality and indeed polity has been embodied in a whole city, that of Auroville in South India, created to establish "the unity of mankind":

Auroville belongs to nobody in particular. Auroville belongs to humanity as a whole. But to live in Auroville, one must be the willing servitor of the Divine Consciousness. Auroville will be the place of an unending education, of constant progress, and a youth that never ages. Auroville wants to be the bridge between the past and the future. Taking advantage of all discoveries from without and from within, Auroville will boldly spring towards future realizations. Auroville will be a site of material and spiritual researches for a living embodiment of an actual Human Unity.

We now turn to Aurobindo's specific interpretation of "the human cycle", worked through with Karl Lamprecht (3), a German 19th-century historian.


For Aurobindo, to begin with then, modern science, as at the turn of the last century, has long attempted to base itself upon physical data alone, even its study of Soul and Mind. It is not surprising therefore, for him, that in history and sociology, as well as the natural sciences, attention should have been concentrated on external data, laws, institutions, rites, customs, economic factors and developments, while the deeper psychological elements so important in the activities of our mental, emotional, "ideative" being should have been neglected.

Karl Lamprecht, on whom Aurobindo draws for his human cycle, established a Centre for Comparative History in Germany, stipulating psychological forces as the basic forces in all of history. Indeed they together derived from the collective psyche of every nation and not from the idiosyncratic forces of individual psyches. Lamprecht was still haunted by a sense of the greater importance of the economic factor. Basing his work in the history of German society, in particular, Lamprecht then proposed, together with Aurobindo, that such a human society goes through four or five distinct psychological stages: symbolic, typal and conventional, individualist and subjective.

Obviously such classifications are likely to err in their rigidity and to substitute a mental straight line for the coils and zigzags of nature. The nature of man and his societies is too complex, too much of a weave of many-sided and intermixed tendencies to satisfy any such rigorous and formal analysis. Yet the overall form of the following analysis may throw some light on historical evolution.


Firstly symbolism, and a widespread imaginative or intuitive religious feeling, has a natural kinship with "grounded" primal formations. When man begins to be predominantly intellectual, sceptical or rational he is already preparing for the individualist society and the age of symbols and conventions lose their lustre.

If we look at the beginnings of Indian society, in the far off Vedic age, not only the actual religious worship but also the social institutions of the time were penetrated through and through with the symbolic spirit. So for the men of old, the poet was a seer, a revealer of hidden truths. Images were used because they could hint luminously in the mind what precise intellectual words, apt only for logical or practical thought, could not hope to manifest. Overly rigid "savage" communities have already passed out of the symbolic into the conventional stage on a curve of degeneration rather than growth. Symbolic forms then become fixed.

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